"We now stand at the threshold of an age in which materials and devices can be fashioned atom by atom," said a Democrat on the floor of the [U.S.] House of Representatives.
Nanotechnology is a "bottom-up approach much like building a sculpture atom by atom and molecule by molecule instead of cutting it from a larger rock," said a Republican Senator.
They were describing an area of advanced nanotechnology called molecular manufacturing. Clearly, Congress desired at least some federal funding to be spent on pursuing molecular manufacturing, but instead virtually all of it has gone into far more mundane nanoscale research. The research the government is presently funding will lead to useful progress in several fields, but molecular manufacturing could lead to revolutionary breakthroughs in production, medicine, aerospace, and more.
It is our hope that the committee will offer a clear analysis of the technical potential of molecular manufacturing, and a clear recommendation on whether federal nanotechnology funds should be allocated toward theoretical and practical research into molecular manufacturing.
CRN believes that any serious, unbiased investigation into the steps required to move from today's nanoscale technologies to exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing will conclude that the matter raises serious implications, and that actions heretofore ignored should be undertaken with urgency. By that, we mean a well-funded, dedicated program of inquiry something like our Thirty Essential Studies.
We hope the NRC committee will agree, and that their recommendation will spur similar -- or, better yet, coordinated -- actions from other major governmental and civil society organizations around the world.